Monday, December 21, 2009

A Year in Uccello Project

To put it simply, 2009 was an amazing year. I got to spend massive amounts of time with my lovely wife and quickly growing daughter. I also got to be part of some great recording projects, playing and engineering. There were many fun, beautiful shows I played as a bassist with various artists. I got to be a featured guest on bass at the 2009 Mandolin Symposium and hang out with David Grisman and Mike Marshal. The Jazz big band I play upright bass in, The Monterey Bay Jazz Orchestra, appeared at the 52nd Monterey Jazz Festival, at which I was a featured soloist. There’s too much information to include details about all these things here, but if you want to follow what I’m doing with music/life in more detail, please check in with me over at Twitter or Facebook. I am writing this post to commemorate some of the high points specifically pertaining to my original musical/visual art project: Uccello Project

Any year that starts out this good has got to turn out wonderfully! On January 22nd I co-hosted, w/ Nancy Cassidy, a house concert in Santa Cruz, CA with Steve and Lobelia Lawson. This was a total treat for me, meeting Steve and Lobelia was major fun! After becoming a huge fan of their music over the internet, hearing them play live in an intimate setting like a house concert was awesome. I even got to play upright bass on an improvised song with Steve, he's so fun to jam with! In short, they are two of the warmest, most talented people I have ever met and any time you can hear them play together live it will be a good day!

Around the time of the show with the Lawson's, through twittering w/ Steve and Lobelia, I met Gustaf Fjelstrom, an amazing ambient, live looping artist, and the phenominal Jazz guitarist Rob Michael of Atmos Trio. On April 10th, in Capitola, I co-hosted, with Juan Candaleria, another house concert. The show also featured my long time friend, the soulful songwriter/guitarist, Aaron Ford. It was quite a jam packed show. To start the evening out Juan's niece played guitar and sang a traditional Ranchera song! We did a first set of Aaron, Gustaf, and myself playing in the round, one song each for 3 songs. Then Atmos Trio played one long set, then we did this crazy free jam, it was a really fun night. Check out songs from that night: As Shards Descend by Gustaf, Armondo's Rhumba by Atmos Trio, Golden by Uccello Project, and of course the 'All star jam'.

Uccello Project also released 2 records this year: “Symmetria” in August and more recently, under the name "Clarified Birds" They released "The Forest That Hears And The Field That Sees in December.

Another high point was writing a guest post on the Bass Guitar Blog: "I Hate Bass Licks" about the challenge of surviving as an artist, and the specific issues bassists face. I also appeared on The HumperLust Blogtalk Radio Show, and got to do my first official interview and play live on the 'air'!

I was also featured in the bass related site's player spotlight in September, thanks to Corey Brown. In partnership with 'no treble' the online bass academy, Learn The Low End approached me about creating instructional videos for their site. I made four bass courses for Learn The Low End, two centering on songs from Symmetria, and two centering on rudimentary techniques. And I thank Evan Keppner for inviting me to be a part of this innovative new site for bassists.

The response to Symmetria has been really great, I got some really nice quotes about the album from some people I admire very much. Also, Symmetria got a wonderful review by the great bassist/educator/writer Damian Erskine in Bass Musician Magazine

Another high point for Uccello Project was playing a set at the Y2K9 International Live Looping Festival on Sunday October 18th. It was an amazing festival attended by a really cool group of ultra open minded folks. I felt a warm sense of community and it was nice to have such an attentive audience. I haven't yet got videos from the set, but you can watch my set on the Ustream archives, the Uccello Project set is about 11 minutes into this video segment.

The first full length Uccello Project show, a house concert in Seaside, CA at our midwife, Maggie Bennett’s house, was a fitting climax to such a great year. Kathy played a bit of mandolin and sang some great harmonies on the vocal tunes we did together, the rest was solo with live looping, it was a blast. It was the first time Magnetic Domain was played live!

Just for fun, even though it's not directly Uccello project related, here's a video of me playing bass with Mike Marshall's student ensemble at the Mandolin Symposium, it was such an honor to play a bit with him, as well as David Grisman.

Thanks to all who read this, I look forward to 2010 with much enthusiasm, hopefully we'll get to meet up someday soon!

Friday, December 4, 2009

There is a new release coming soon from Audio Centaur! It's called Clarified Birds: The Forest That Hears And The Field That Sees. It will mark the first release in our new packaging template, designed by J.F. Uccello. There will be letter pressed art/text, alchemical poetry and the audio is burned to high quality Tiayo Yuden CDR's. We're doing a limited run of 25-they will be available soon.

In the meantime please enjoy listening for FREE (and downloading for a limited time-SHHH!) to the whole album on the widget below and please stay tuned for the official release announcement! Oh, by the way, the wonderful site Sound Cloud, which seems to be the only site around cool enough to allow extended length songs to be uploaded to their site, is currently the 'web home' of these recordings, if you are an ambient artist looking for a place to put your extra long pieces, I would strongly recommend checking them out!


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Clarified Birds

The Forest That Hears And the Field That Sees

Inspired by the amazing Hieronymus Bosch painting, “The Forest That Hears And The Field That Sees”, the second release from Audio Centaur, a label with the unique goal of melding the visual with the aural arts, attempts to create an enriching experience by joining the power of music with the magic of viewing art. Audio Centaur also continues its’ mission to bring back the luxury of vinyl packaging to the CD format while offering a product for the same price someone might pay for a digital download. When complete, along with the full, 33-minute piece of music, there will be extensive letter pressed, customized art by J.F. Uccello. This art will be designed to view while listening to the music.

The best of both worlds are encompassed: if one wishes to import the audio to an mp3 player, focusing only on the sounds, one can, or if one chooses to appreciate the visual side on its’ own, that can be done as well. But, the most rewarding 3rd option is to explore the art while listening to the music and thereby enjoy the alchemy of sight and sound intertwined!

The music was totally improvised, no plan whatsoever excepting to try and match the feeling of Bosch’s masterwork. The music was recorded all in one take using the art of live looping (for a description of live looping check out master looper, Steve Lawson’s looping basics video.) This video (about half the piece) is of the performance in the studio by Steve Uccello. It’s intended to give a taste of the music, and an inside view into how it was created. After recording the initial tracks there was minimal mixing and editing (an extended ending was added using Digital Performer) and what you see and hear is done totally live with Upright Bass, Acoustic Guitar, and Dobro Slide Bass. After the long and arduous task of completing Symmetria, which involved lots of overdubbing and editing, this newest piece reflects a desire for a more live, flowing approach to the creation process. This piece truly created itself!

Please follow this blog or add a bookmark for it to get the latest news on the impending release of the full length, art laden CD of Clarified Birds: The Forest That Hears And the Field That Sees.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Uccello Project To Play Y2k 2009 Loopfest Oct 18th

Upcoming live show for Uccello Project at this year's Y2k International Live Looping Festival. Sunday, October 18th, 5pm at Peal Alley Studios in Santa Cruz, California. Come check out this amazing fest and tons of amazing artists, all live loopers. This will be the first show with my new upright bass, and the set is getting really fun, come down to hear good upright drones, walking bass, Dobro Slide Bass, and much more:

Y2K 2009 International Live Looping Festival-show schedule

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Symmetria Reviewed In Bass Musician Magazine

Symmetria has just received a great review in the October/November edition of the Northwest's own, Bass Musician Magazine. The magazine staff has been particularly supportive and have given me encouragement and motivation during the process of creating Symmetria, more on that later, at my other 'side blogect', "Steve Uccello's Blog-The Perspective Of An Independent Musician" if I get around to writing about the story behind the progress of the creative process.

In any case I am extremely exited about the review and just to give a little back ground, in their own words:

" Bass Musician Magazine, a bi-monthly virtual bass magazine and community, is unlike any other as far as content is concerned. We feature a world class staff of diverse and extremely experienced bass players in their own field, covering not just the more or less "how to" approach, but looking into the methodology and personal experiences these players have to offer as well to gain insight on what we hope to make the focal point of this magazine, that being, becoming a better "musician".

Bass Mucician Magazine
features articles on the most influential players (known and unknown) of our day. Our regular columns cover a vast amount of musical territory with a diverse look at any and all pertinent info that will aid what we feel should be the main focus of any aspiring bassist, finding "your own voice"."

Uccello Project is honored to have Symmetria reviewed in such a respectable publication. Follow this link to see the review, written by performer, writer, and educator Damian Erskine :

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Instructional Video by Steve Uccello on Learn The Low End

Symmetria has gained a bit of attention and all the feedback has been positive, Uccello project stands in a debt of gratitude to all those who have helped us out. One of the most exiting developments for me has been constructing an instructional video for the online bass institute LEARNING THE LOW END centered around the 8th song on Symmetria: CHIRAL. Evan Kepner, the creator of Learn The Low End, approached me about teaching my theories on how to achieve a multi-textured arrangement through the use of live looping. I felt Chiral was a good place to start because in the live version, I use only one instrument (other arrangements I’ve created have me switching between 2 to 3 instruments, more on that in later lessons!) but…I still employ a lot of the same techniques in Chiral that I use on more complexly arranged songs. In relation to this, Learn The low End is Partnered with the bass-related website NO TREBLE which did a wonderful feature on Symmetria and an even more wonderful player spotlight on me . Though you can’t really go in and view the lesson on Chiral without buying it (it’s going for a very reasonable $10, which gets you the lesson for life) you can check out the site itself as well as some of the other great courses there (some of which are free) Actually as I write this there are some different promotional options being kicked around to get this lesson out there, please leave a comment on this post if you are interested in a free sample view of this lesson, and I’d be more than happy to oblige you. In summation, this is a huge step for Uccello Project, Symmetria, and my career as a bassist/musician/educator! I extend a hearty THANKS to Evan Kepner, and the whole Learn The Low End Team as well as the whole No Treble crew! –Steve Uccello

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wizards of Sonic 1

Dr. James Hopkins: The Pythagorean Monochords. This man has created instruments that are made to nest against the human body in order to absorb the Pythagorean magic.

"I call it the end of all conversation. The human intelligence is important for survival. But it's also important to turn that off."

See the wondrous video at The Pythagorean Monochords

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ideas Behind the Album 3: Wooden Books

A source of guidance in this project is the very focused yet illuminating work Symmetry, the Ordering Principle, by David Wade, part of the inspiring series Wooden Books. This series encompasses a vast array of knowledge, all the more remarkable that each book is only fifty eight pages, with invariably one page chapters followed by an illustration. Wade writes in his introduction:

Symmetry has a very wide appeal; it is of as much interest to mathematicians as it is to artists, and is as relevant to physics as it is to architecture. In fact, many other disciplines lay ther own claims on the subject, each having their own ideas of what symmetry is, or should be. Clearly, whatever approach is taken, we are dealing here with a universal principle, however, in our day-to-day experience conspicuous symmetries are comparatively rare and most are far from obvious. So what is symmetry? Are there general terms for it? Can it, indeed, be clearly defined at all?

On investigation, it soon becomes clear that the whole field is hedged about with paradox. To begin with, any notion of symmetry is completely entangled with that of asymmetry; we can scarcely conceive of the former without invoking thoughts of the latter (as with the related concepts of order and disorder) and there are other dualities. Symmetry precepts are always involved with categorization, with classification and observed regularities; in short, with limits. But in itself symmetry is unlimited; there is nowhere that its principles do not penetrate. In addition, symmetry principles are characterized by a quietude, a stillness that is somehow beyond the bustling world; yet, in one way or another, they are almost always involved with transformation, or disturbance, or movement.

The more deeply one investigates this subject the more apparent it becomes that this is at the same time one of the most mundane and extensive areas of study-but that, in the final analysis, it remains one of the most mysterious.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ideas Behind the Album 2: Balance

When conceiving the album Symmetria, Uccello Project felt the urge to express the struggle to achieve balance in one's own life and actions, the microcosmic sense, and how this played into the achievement of balance on a macrocosmic level. The ancient Hermetic maxim states that which is above is like to that which is below, and that which is below is like to that which is above, and Uccello Project felt driven by this seemingly simple idea, subconsciously at the outset, then increasingly aware of what was happening as the music and art were unveiled.

The early influence of fantasy and sci-fi literature was also drawn upon, namely the Elric series of Michael Moorcock. Moorcock posits a multiverse of parallel realities, where heroes, or eternal champions, are used as pawns to fight on the ever shifting sands that comprise the balance between law and chaos. As a physically sickly emperor who nevertheless possesses great knowledge of sorcery, the antihero Elric drives himself away from his decadent, hyper evolved kingdom into the wider world, to experience life on the edge of reality. Elric begins by serving Arioch, the lord of chaos, but ends as a servant of law, and ulitmately, the great and mysterious cosmic balance. Uccello Project, in a sonic, visual, and even tactile sense, was dreamed as a vehicle, a body, to attempt in its own microcosmic way, to contribute to this striving for balance. It is partly a fantasy, but through fantasy, music is dreamed, sound is birthed, and from this sound, art flowers.

Other written works were a great inspiration along the way. In Harmonies Of Heaven And Earth, a book dedicated to exploring the profound and mysterious power of music, author Joscelyn Godwin writes,

"In the Li Chi, the ancient Chinese book of Rites whose compilation was begun by Confucius (551-487 B.C.) there is a long discourse on how music should be used in conjunction with ceremonies to bring civilization into a proper state of harmony and order. This is how the functions of the two are described:

Harmony is the thing principally sought in music. It therein follows Heaven, and manifests the expansive spiritual influence characteristic of it. Normal distinction is the thing aimed at in ceremonies. It therein follows Earth and exhibits the retractive spiritual influence characteristic in it.

Hence the sages made music in response to Heaven, and framed ceremonies in correspondence with Earth. Music, which derives from inner experience, and ceremonies, which are derived from observing the situation in the outer world, are seen as complimentary powers, as are their respective origins, Heaven and Earth. Music brings out in mankind the unity of purpose and of feeling, reflecting the perfect harmony of the heavens, without which civilization cannot stand; ceremonies assign everyone’s distinct place in the earthly hierarchy."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Garnet Film (Live Looping)

Garnet Film is the fourth song on Symmetria. This is the live looping arrangement of the song. Before recording Symmetria, I had not yet begun to practice the art of live looping, but when all the tracking was complete, I thought about how the material on the record could be performed live. The songs on Symmetria often have two to five bass parts on them and it seemed extraneous and unrealistic to have to hire multiple bassists for each show, especially since I had played all the parts on the record, looping seemed a logical solution. After beginning to arrange some of the songs off Symmetria, I realized that they lent themselves very well to the looping art. Of course, some changes to the recorded versions were necessary when arranging the live looping versions. This was actually a positive thing. Often, the changes came as a total delight as I found myself creating new transitional sections or soloing for more extended periods of time. Another consideration for putting a live show together was the logistical limitations of large amounts of equipment. The three instruments in this video (guitar, upright bass, dobro bass) are the three that I seem to have settled down with for my live show. I may at some point add a microphone and various percussion instruments (as seen in the Magnetic Domain video) but as my goal is to play out more and get some opener slots, I need to be more streamlined in my approach to playing live. This is also influenced, partly, by my upcoming performance at the Y2K 2009 Looping Festival in Santa Cruz (mid-October) where the set up & break down times are very limited. The streamlining of my live show (and, indeed, a large impetus to loop in the first place) was also greatly influenced by solo bassist/looping master (and cofounder of the Y2K Looping Festival) Steve Lawson. His suggestion to me was to use guitar and standup bass first and see how much was possible with just the two. Steve's suggestion set me thinking about what the most versatile, yet small, ensemble would be. First off the upright is the biggest obstacle (literally) I am in the process of working with master luthier Matt Bohn on taking a 5/8 size upright and converting it to a bolt on neck and then having the world renowned Rick Turner install one of his patented bass pickup systems. The Dobro bass is the instrument I chose to serve as an electric bass (for harmonics, chords, ect.) plus I can use it for slide playing, which is featured on the Garnet Film Video. The guitar is pretty self explanatory, perfect for the jazzier songs where I need accompaniment that occupies a small sonic space, yet contains a bass line and cluster chords. Bass music is tricky, it's not the most natural thing in the world, one has to arrange things so the bass is brought out (it's SO easy to cover up) and I find that guitar stays out of the way, sonically, fairly naturally. That's the basic logic behind the instrumentation on this video. It's the ensemble that I'm also composing new music for, so the next record (whenever that will be!) will be somewhat more succinct between the transition from studio creation to live show.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ideas Behind the Album 1

This article deals with the tradition in Japanese belief, that objects have or can acquire souls over time. It confirms the mission of Uccello Project, to create an object that has some feeling in it beyond just the moment one plays it on the stereo. The actual paper, the design, the essence of the object is important. Over time, what happens to an object upon which one lavishes attention?

The Japanese Concept of Things

Monday, May 4, 2009

Magnetic Domain

Magnetic Domain, sequestered in bowed drones, is liquidly dark cornerstone of Symmetria. Live version played in Monterey, at the home of Uccello Project.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Uccello Project, Symmetria, Golden

"Golden" is the opening track of Symmetria; this is a live version of the song, in all its looped glory.

Uccello Project: Symmetria

The Symmetria master is at the factory, awaiting its next stage on the way to completion. The artwork is moments away from being finalized and spirited off from the Aerie to the auspices of Stumptown Printers. Much hard work has been put into this. We are quite excited about the results, and trust it will meet with surprise and delight by those who acquire it. The Uccello Project is a conglomeration of art and music masterminded by bassist Steve Uccello. SYMMETRIA is an album where many streams successfully merge into a current of joy, mysticism, and quietude. Dreaming drones, jazz, Chinese and European classical inflections...